The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The historic Baltimore Basilica, known informally as "America's First Cathedral," was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe and built from 1806-1821. It was the first great metropolitan cathedral constructed in the United States after the adoption of the Constitution. The Basilica is open for free public tours and its museum displays numerous artifacts dating back to its 17th century origin. Items in the museum include the tabernacle once kept by the family of John Carroll, Cardinal Gibbons’ vestments, letters between American Presidents and Catholic leaders, and altar vessels used during the Basilica’s earliest days.
Backstory and Context
Latrobe donated his designs for the basilica, but his involvement with it was at times turbulent. As Architecture professor Mary Woods explains, "his pro bono work for the cathedral proved very costly, in terms of Latrobe's time and peace of mind," in part because the builders were apt to tweak his designs. After a lengthy process, and seven revisions to the design, the Baltimore Basilica was at last completed in 1821.
Fazio, Michael and Patrick Snadon. The Domestic Architecture of Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. Especially p. 8 and 266.
Woods, Mary. "The First Professional: Benjamin Henry Latrobe." In American Architectural History: A Contemporary Reader. Edited by Keith Eggener. New York: Routledge, 2004. p. 112-131. Quoted text from p. 121.